BOOK III - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
The first five books
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BOOK III
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Page 107 Next to these inhabit those Arabians call'd Carbi, and next to them the Sabeans, the most populous of any of the Arabians, for they possess Arabia the Happy, exceeding rich in all those things which we esteem most precious, and for breeding of Cattel of all sorts, the most fertil Country in the World; for the whole Country is naturally perfum'd all over, every thing almost growing there, sending forth continually most excellent Odours. On the Sea-Coasts grow Balsom and Cassia, and another Herb of a strange and peculiar property, which while it's fresh, is delightsom and strengthening to the Eyes, but kept a while, presently loses its virtue. Higher in the heart of the Country, are shady Woods and Forests, grac'd and beautify'd with stately Trees of Frankincence and Myrrh, Palm-Trees, Calamus and Cinamon, and such like Odoriferous Plants. For none can enumerate the several natures and properties of so great a multitude, or the excellency of those sweet Odours that breath out of every one of them. For their Fragrancy is such, that it even ravishes the Senses with delight, as a thing divine and unutterable; it entertains them that sail along by the Coast at a great distance with its Pleasures and Delights. For in Spring-time the Winds from off the Land waft the Air perfum'd with the sweet Odours of Mirrh, and other Odoriferous Plants, to those Parts of the Sea that are next to them. And these Spices have nothing of a faint and languishing Smell, as those that come to our Hands; but a strong and vigorous Odour that strongly pierces all their Senses to the utmost of their Capacity: For the Wafts of Air dispersing the Perfumes of these Odoriferous Plants, abundance of pleasant, healthful and strange variety of Scents (proceeding from the richest Spices) are convey'd to them that Sail near unto the Coast. For this sweet smell, comes not from Fruit bruis'd in a Mortar (whose strength is in a great measure decay'd) or from Spices made up in divers sorts of Vessels for Transportation; but from the ripeness of the Fruit as it grows, and from the pure and divine Nature of the Plant it self. So that they that have the advantage of these sweet Odours, seem as if they were entertain'd with that feign'd Meat of the Gods call'd Ambrosia; since those excellent Perfumes cannot have a Name ascrib'd them transcending their worth and dignity.

Yet Fortune has not imparted to Men an intire and unmixt Felicily in these things, but has join'd some inconveniences with these Advantages, to correct them who (through a constant Confluence of Earthly Blessings) have usually despis'd and slighted the Gods. For these fragrant Forests abound with Red Serpents of a Span long, whose Bite is deadly and incurable. They strike a Man with a violent Assault, leaping up in his very Face, leaving him besmear'd with his own Blood.

There's something very remarkable amongst these People, as to them that have been long sick: For being that things of a more than ordinary piercing operation pass quick through the Pores of the Body, and so discuss the stubborn Matter, there follows a dissipation of Humours, and the Party becomes curable: Therefore they burn Brimstone mixt with Goats Hair under the Noses of the Sick, that by a contrary smell they may discuss and drive out those sweet and fragrant Odours that have overpower'd the Spirits of the Sick; for that which is good in it self, is profitable and delightful, us'd moderately and seasonably; but an immoderate injoyment, and beyond a due proportion of time loses the benefit and advantage of the Blessing bestow'd.

The Capital City of this Nation is call'd Sabas, and stands upon an high Hill: They are govern'd by Kings who inherit the Crown by Descent; yet the Honour allow'd them by their Subjects is such, as that they are in some respects, notwithstanding in a sort of Bondage and Slavery: For though they seem to be priviledg'd in this, that they have a Sovereign and absolute power in making of Laws, and are not to give an account of any of their Actions to their Subjects; yet they are as unhappy in this, that they are never to stir out of their Palace, for if they do, the People stone them to Death, for so they are commanded by an ancient Oracle.

This Nation net only excels all the Neighbouring Barbarians in Wealth, but all other People whatsoever, for plenty of every thing that is accounted precious. For in their Traffick for a thing of a very small weight, they receive a greater Sum of 〈◊◊〉 any other Merchants that sell Goods for Silver.



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